WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators to introduce legislation this week that would provide patients with safe means to dispose of unused controlled substances. Brown was joined by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Charles Grassley (R-IA) in introducing The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. This bipartisan legislation would work to prevent teenagers from gaining access to discarded prescription drugs by permitting individuals and long-term care facilities to deliver unused drugs for safe disposal and by expanding drug take-back programs.

“It’s critical that we treat prescription drug abuse like the dangerous epidemic it is,” Brown said. “This legislation will make it easier for parents and facilities to dispose of controlled substances before they are abused. It is an important step in our fight against prescription drug abuse.”

“Parents know that keeping unwanted prescription drugs in their homes increases the risk that young people will find them, but current law provides them with few alternatives,” Klobuchar said. “By making it easier for people to dispose of controlled substances they no longer need, we reduce teens’ access to these drugs and help curb teen drug abuse.”

“Abuse of prescription medications is a serious problem.  But because of overly restrictive federal laws, most people currently lack a safe option for disposing of dangerous medications.  This legislation writes some common sense back into the law by allowing responsible drug take-back programs to accept any person’s unused or unwanted medications,” said Cornyn.

“The abuse of prescription narcotics such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives is currently the fastest growing drug abuse trend in the country,” Grassley said.  “Many legitimate users of these drugs often do not finish their prescriptions, and, as a result, these drugs remain in the family medicine cabinet for months or years because people forget about them or do not know how to properly dispose of them. It’s important that we encourage people to dispose of their old or unwanted medicines so that these drugs don’t fall into the wrong hands.”

As many as 17 percent of prescription medication goes unused and may contribute to drug diversion and environmental problems. This bill would allow consumers to give controlled substances to specially designated individuals, such as law enforcement or pharmacists, for disposal. The legislation would allow long-term care facilities to dispose of certain prescription drugs on behalf of their residents.

Keeping outdated prescription drugs in the home leaves drugs readily accessible to children and teens. Teenagers now abuse prescription drugs more than any other illegal drug except for marijuana, and the majority of teens who abuse these drugs get them for free, usually from friends and relatives, and often without their knowledge.

Sen. Brown has been a leading advocate for combating prescription drug abuse, working with President Obama and Governor Ted Strickland to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and Medicaid fraud in Ohio.

On March 25, Brown’s office convened a first-of-its-kind roundtable that brought together federal officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and state officials from the Attorney General’s office, Department of Health, and Department of Jobs and Family Services. Local law enforcement and judicial representatives also attended the meeting to share their first-hand experiences with this issue.

On March 1, Brown wrote to President Obama offering his support for the President’s proposals to combat prescription drug fraud and Medicaid abuse.  Sen. Brown asked for the President’s help in stamping out prescription drug fraud in Ohio.

The illegal use of controlled substances is an epidemic across the country and Ohio is no exception, particularly in southern Ohio. Southern Ohio is struggling with high unemployment rates and limited resources to address these types of problems.  Below are some quick facts on prescription drug abuse in Ohio:

•    On average, more than three (3.6) people die each day in Ohio due to drug?related poisoning.

•    According to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there has been a 141 percent increase in the number of admissions for substance abuse treatment for prescription opioids (pain medications) in Ohio from 1998 to 2006 – from 1,140 in 1998 to 2,746 in 2006.

•    From 1999 to 2007, Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings increased more than 300 percent, largely due to prescription drug overdoses.

•    In Ohio, there were 327 fatal unintentional drug overdoses in 1999 growing to 1,351 annual deaths annually in 2007. In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes and suicide for the first time on record.

•    Prescription opioids (pain medications) are associated with more overdoses than any other prescription or illegal drug- including cocaine and heroin- and are largely responsible for this alarming increase in drug poisoning death rates.

•    Opioids were involved in at least 37 percent of all poisoning deaths in the Ohio in 2007.

•    The opioids most associated with overdose are methadone, oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin®), hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin®) and fentanyl. Other opioids such as morphine, meperidine (Demerol®) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid®) also play a role.

Sen. Brown has conducted more than 140 roundtables across Ohio, and Medicaid prescription drug abuse is brought up consistently as an issue plaguing Southern Ohio communities.